Frozen food has earned itself a bit of a bad rap thanks to the abundance of desserts and pastries which are found in the freezer aisle. However, the freezer aisle is also home to an ever growing list of healthy food options! These include, snap frozen fruit and vegetables and nutritious ready-made meals for adults and children (hello Nourishing Bubs Baby’s First Food Purees!). Just like any aisle in the supermarket, the choice lies in the consumer’s hands and a simple read of the ingredient list and label can help make a healthier choice.
So what are the benefits of frozen food?
Natural form of preservation
Freezing food has been used as a natural form of preservation for centuries, back to the days when winter frosts would be used to ensure supply of food through the cooler months. It avoids the need for any preservatives as microorganisms and enzymes that cause spoilage are unable to grow below temperatures of – 9.5°C. This also means we can enjoy seasonal variation throughout the year as foods can be harvested at their peak and when they taste most delicious and then enjoyed from frozen in their off-season.
Locked in nutrients
While there is a general assumption amongst consumers that fresh produce has a greater nutritional value than its frozen counterpart, studies have demonstrated the opposite.
In one such study, carried out by the University of California, the nutrient content of “fresh”, “fresh-stored” and “frozen” fruits and vegetables was analysed and compared. For the purpose of the study, fresh had to be straight from the farm / farmer’s markets, while fresh-stored could be purchased from the farmers markets but was then stored for 5 days in the refrigerator. This was designed to mimic consumer’s typical storage patterns. The study found “that the nutritional value of frozen fruits and vegetables are generally equal to – and in some cases better than – their fresh counterparts”.
While this may come as a surprise to some consumers, we know much of what we purchase in supermarkets has been sitting in cold storage for weeks if not months, before it makes it into our hands. In contrast, frozen produce is usually processed (frozen) within hours of being harvested. It is the extended period of cold storage which results in gradual degradation in nutrition while freezing of the produce straight from farm, locks in the nutrients and flavour at that point in time.
Decreased food wastage
Oz Harvest tells us that almost half the world’s fruit and vegetables are wasted with 35% of the average Australian’s household bin being food waste. With stats like that, there really is no denying that food waste is a huge problem and each and every one of us is contributing to it! However, frozen food presents an opportunity to help combat it.
The long shelf life allows us to enjoy what we need, when we need it – a few florets of cauliflower, half a head of broccoli, half a cup of raspberries – all on hand as required! Similarly, when it comes to preparing your own baby food, chances are, you are going to do a batch cook and freeze leftover portions for use at a later date, rather than slaving away every day for 30g of food which might end up on the floor (or the wall). Freezing food allows us to save food to consume at a later date, resulting in a reduction in food waste, as well as saving you the time and money of preparing the dish again.
Next time you are at the supermarket, give the freezer aisle a try!
Words by Olivia Bates, Founder & Paediatric Dietitian
You can find out more about Frozen Food in our recent post “The truth about frozen baby food and their shelf-stable counterparts.”